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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

August is not friendly to investors, according to history.

Why it matters: Despite its modest decline on Friday, the stock market continues to trade near all-time highs. In fact, the S&P 500 has booked gains for six consecutive months.

  • But some experts warn that the market is overdue for a considerable sell-off, especially considering the near-term risks.

By the numbers: Since 2010, the S&P 500 has fallen in August six times, giving it the worst track record of any of the months.

  • Furthermore, in the past 20 years and in post-election years since 1950, August has delivered losses on average.
  • The last time the S&P has fallen by 5% or more from its high was October.

What they’re saying: "You could say markets have become more illiquid since the [global financial crisis] and perhaps holidays in August exacerbate this so that any negative news that takes place is amplified," Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid writes.

What to watch: According to a recent survey conducted by Deutsche Bank, 32% of financial professionals said they expected to take more time off this summer than during a normal year, and so "liquidity will likely be even lower than usual."

The bottom line: Major market sell-offs are hard to predict, and when they happen they aren’t necessarily the beginning of prolonged bear markets. Nevertheless, history says it’s good to be prepared for one, especially after extended periods of low market volatility.

Go deeper

Wall Street's wobble disrupts record stock market boom

People walk by the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Monday interrupted a stretch of calm amid the historic stock market boom underway since March 2020.

Driving the news: Jitters were apparent nearly everywhere.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
36 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

"Be first, be right, be credible" is the mantra of public health experts in a crisis. It's difficult to argue that the health community has regularly managed to be any of those three during COVID-19.

Why it matters: A pandemic isn't just a medical emergency — it's also a communications emergency. The U.S. public health establishment, hamstrung by bad data and political interference, has struggled with the latter.